The BBC Heritage Collection

The BBC Heritage Collection

An interview with Rory O'Connell from the BBC's Heritage collection

Rory O'Connell, who looks after the BBC's Heritage Collection, talks about working with Tardises and Alistair Cooke's typewriter.



In 1931 the BBC was coming up to its tenth year and it decided to commission a portrait of the Director General, John Reith. This started a tradition whereby all subsequent Director Generals had their portrait painted, but only after they'd left the post. The artist Oswald Birley was commissioned to do the first portrait of John Reith, which would hang in the council chamber of the BBC's brand new building, Broadcasting House, which was then under construction.

It was Reith's vision that changed the BBC from the British Broadcasting Company into the British Broadcasting Corporation, with a charter that we're still governed by today and his original vision to inform, educate and entertain. Among the art collection are pictures of some of the BBC's most important buildings, such as the first ever artist's impression of the new Television Centre by the architect Graham Dawbarn from 1956. You get a sense that television was a glamorous operation with people flocking to Television Centre in expensive cars to see television being made.

Also in the collection is the first artist's impression of what would become Broadcasting House, opened in 1932. The design was likened to the prow of a ship and it was built in Portland stone, which would be very bright white, which meant it made a real impact on the site in Portland Place. And the artist's impression really conjures up the era of the early 1930s, with cars passing by in the street and fashionable people walking by.

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